Monday, August 25, 2014

Fwd: Letter #73 - 8/25/14

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Elizabeth Montgomery <>
Date: Mon, Aug 25, 2014 at 4:34 AM
Subject: Letter #73 - 8/25/14
To: Christine Montgomery <>

Dear family and friends,

Wow... how many more of these letters are there going to be? Seven I think. My time in Odessa has pretty much just flown by already, and before I know it, I'll be sittin' on a plane thinking about future marriage plans (just kidding... sort of) :D

Well, Dasha got baptized and confirmed! I was stressed all weekend about making sure everything ran smoothly, and indeed, everything went well. The baptismal program was all that a baptismal program should be, plus President Packer and his family happened to be in Odessa and they came too! That was pretty neat. Elder Bukanov baptized Dasha (twice... the first time, her toe came up out of the water), and Elder Brough gave her the gift of the Holy Ghost the next day.

I reflected a lot this weekend on the grace and mercy that comes from the Atonement of Jesus Christ -- that a person can have the sins and mistakes of an entire lifetime washed away by baptism, and how every repenting member of the church can retain a remission of their sins every week by partaking of the sacrament. That is pretty incredible. I also realized that my perspective on baptism has changed during my mission. I used to view it as mostly an exciting event, something that every missionary strives for, but now... even though it's still very exciting, I see it now in the perspective of enduring to the end. It's a beautiful step in a beautiful process of life-long conversion, but at the same time, that covenant is in vain if not kept until the end. Retainment in the Church is just as important as baptism; in fact, everything we do in the church is for one great purpose -- the salvation of souls -- and one aspect of it is no more important than another.

I gave a talk yesterday in church comparing the gospel to a mansion. I wanted to write it out today, but I'm out of time, so I'll leave it for next week. Life is just dandy around here, probably thanks to many of your prayers. I'm still out of the know about what's happening in Ukraine, but just know that I'm still safe and happy.

Love you all! Have a great week!

Sister Montgomery

Monday, August 18, 2014

Fwd: Letter #72 - 8/18/14

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Elizabeth Montgomery <>
Date: Mon, Aug 18, 2014 at 4:45 AM
Subject: Letter #72 - 8/18/14
To: Christine Montgomery <>

Dear family,

What a wonderful week! You didn't know this, but last week I was in a bit of a spiritual rut, but never fear, because as I just wrote President, "I'm pleased to report that I'm so out of last week's rut that I'm standing on a hill higher than I've been in a long time. God showered out revelations upon me so fast I hardly had time to record them all, and I'm spiritually on fire again. The work is great, I'm as obedient and diligent as I've ever been, and life is just good." God is faithful; if He brings you to something, you best believe He'll bring you through it too! :)

Dasha's baptism is set for Saturday at 4:00. It's going to be a wonderful day!

Today I want to tell you the story of Svetlana Nikolaevna. She's a 74-year-old woman that the Sisters before me met in June, and a couple weeks ago I gave her a call. She sounded like a nice old lady and wasn't against us coming over, so she gave us her address and we set up a time. We stopped by at that time only to find that nobody was home. Bummer. We left a note, called her back on a Saturday, and she said she'd come to church the next day.

The next day, she didn't come to church because it was so hot. We talked on the phone and she asked what our purpose was in wanting to come over, and she said that she has her own church already (Baptist) and that so much has happened in her life to leave her with little faith in the first place. I told her, "Please, just give us a chance to at least meet you," and she basically said, "Whatever, come if you want." I thought, "Alright, well... looks like she's not that interested after all," but a few nights later we were in her area and I decided to call her up anyway, thinking that maybe she was just in a bad mood on Sunday. She was home and invited us over, so we went. We were there for probably an hour and a half and she talked about 90% of the time (she lives alone -- can you blame her?). We attempted to share some of our message and then ended with a prayer, and she mentioned something about us helping her come closer to God, which I thought was neat. But I still didn't know how interested she was in us teaching her.

A few days later, on Saturday, we got a call from her inviting us back. We weren't sure why, but we stopped by. The first thing she said was, "I wanted to ask -- can I get a copy of the Book of Mormon? I know I told you I can't see very well, but I've got this magnifying glass, and I'd like to try reading your book if that's okay." Umm, yeah! We gave her a copy and offered to read to her while we were there, and she was delighted at the offer -- we read the Book of Mormon introduction, and she asked questions and gave clarifying comments and really understood the whole thing. We read some other passages too, all the while she was listening intently while cutting fruit to make us smoothies (she had already made us an entire container full of borsht [Ukrainian soup]). SUCH a kind woman. She said a beautiful prayer at the end of the lesson, and she even came to sacrament meeting the next day and is anxiously awaiting our next lesson.

We've seen this woman a total of three times now, and I already love her more than you can imagine. And I can't even describe to you how happy I was when she wanted the Book of Mormon, and when we were reading together. I was seriously holding back tears. On the way to Svetlana's apartment, I approached a woman on a bench by saying, "Hi, how are you?" and when she saw my tag and book, she turned her head to the side in complete ignorance of me without saying a word. And to have that kind of disinterest contrasted with the curiosity and sincerity and light of Svetlana... it was incredible. I was pretty much giddy to see someone finally value something so spiritually valuable and to thirst for the Living Water that the scriptures provide us with. I'll update you more on her in the future -- I couldn't help but sharing that little story with you. :)

Spiritual thought: This last week, Sister Cromwell reminded me of an experience we had together when I trained her. The day we met and had our training meeting, we went out on the temple grounds and sat on a bench together. She asked me, "What should I know about serving a mission?" and I thought about it for a moment and replied, "That it's an honor. It's an honor to serve a mission." Almost exactly a year later, I wrote this list about why. I know it's long, but I think you'll enjoy it. I sure did!

Why it's an honor to serve a mission:
  • I get to maintain a very healthy sleep, exercise, and meal schedule
  • I get to feast on the word of God two hours every morning
  • I get to pray all day long
  • I have the time, circumstances, and gift of tongues to learn and master a beautiful foreign language
  • I'm almost completely protected from worldly media and temptations that waste my time and dismiss the Holy Ghost
  • I don't have to worry about finances, work, education, housing, dating, etc.
  • I get to constantly set goals and strive to fulfill them
  • I constantly have a companion by my side
  • I constantly have a Companion by my side
  • I get to wear Christ's name over my heart for all the see
  • I get to carry around The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ for all the see

  • I get to forget myself and focus 100% on serving others
  • I get to be incredibly involved in the spiritual lives of others
  • I get to meet amazing people and build friendships that will last for a lifetime
  • I get to receive revelation daily for myself and the people in my area
  • I get to feel very deeply God's love for others
  • I get to feel very deeply God's love for me
  • I get to teach people truth all day, every day
  • I get to learn from people's words, deeds, stories, and examples all day, every day
  • I get to see people change for the better
  • I get to see myself change for the better
  • I get to practice faith, hope, and charity, not just know about them
  • I get to develop virtue, knowledge, patience, humility, diligence, and obedience
  • I get to suffer for Christ's sake
  • I get to experience constant opportunities for growth, AKA trials
  • I get to discover my weaknesses so that I know what I can improve
  • I get to be a full-time instrument in the hands of the Lord
  • I get to discover the amazingness of the gospel again and again
  • I get to spend all my time strengthening my relationship with Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost
  • I get to receive a continual remission of sins (D&C 84:61; D&C 62:3)
  • I get to have my testimony confirmed every day
  • I get to have my testimony received by some
  • I get to shine the light of the gospel on everyone I come in contact with
  • I get to help "bad" people become good and good people become better
  • I get to see miracles
  • I get to be part of miracles
  • I get to find people that God has prepared to receive His gospel
  • I get to prepare people to receive the gospel that God will later find through His other servants
  • I get to promise people blessings as an official representative of Jesus Christ

  • I get to teach people about how our loving Heavenly Father restored the fullness of truth through a modern-day prophet
  • I get to teach people about God's magnificent plan for His children that explains where we came from, why we're here on earth, and what happens after death
  • I get to teach people about how to partake of the Lord's mercy through faith in Him, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end
  • I get to teach people about the commandments that God has given us for our safety and happiness
  • I get to teach people about other laws and ordinances that God has revealed to help us on our path home to Him
  • I get to watch people's faith in Jesus Christ grow stronger and give them great peace
  • I get to watch people repent and change their lives because they love God
  • I get to see people unlock the gate to the Celestial Kingdom by being baptized by proper authority
  • I get to witness the Spirit working in the lives of others to comfort, warn, protect, direct, teach, cleanse, and testify
  • And first of all, last of all, and above all:
    • I get to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end
Well, that ought to give you enough to spiritually chew on. ;) Have a great week! I love you!

Sister Montgomery

Monday, August 11, 2014

Fwd: Letter #71 - 8/11/14

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Elizabeth Montgomery <>
Date: Mon, Aug 11, 2014 at 8:57 AM
Subject: Letter #71 - 8/11/14
To: Christine Montgomery <>

Dear world,

I planned what I'd write today so this should be a little more organized on my part...

First off, it was a HOT but fine week around here. Dasha changed her baptismal date to August 23rd instead of the 30th -- you know you've got a good investigator when they want to get baptized even sooner than they originally planned. I'm not sure that it'll be in the Black Sea though, but that's okay -- baptism by proper authority is valid anywhere, plus maybe someone else will want to get baptized in the Sea... :)

Honestly, teaching Dasha has been such a delight for me. It's like a missionary breath of fresh air to teach someone who just "gets it," who has experienced such a mighty change of heart that "[she] has no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually" (Mosiah 5:2). She reads the Book of Mormon like it's a brand new popular novel, she prays constantly and gets answers from Heavenly Father, she's coming to church and gaining spiritual strength from it, she both is edified and edifies us in lessons, and it's all changing both her and her family for the better.

And on my side, it's been a lesson in teaching for understanding (using examples and stories that will interest and stick with her) and also teaching "for the long run." I know that baptism is only the beginning, and that much of her life will be influenced by what we teach her in this important beginning stage, and so we're very careful to teach her right. I mean, we should be that diligent with all our investigators no matter how close to baptism they are, but the principle is the same -- the more clear and bold and with the Spirit we teach now, the more ready she will be to start and stay on the path to the Celestial Kingdom.

A quick little thing I've learned on my mission and especially in the last few weeks: the journey is often greater than the destination. We've had so many moments where we're going about doing good, trying to stop by members or former investigators or potential investigators, and God blesses us with people in our path who are prepared for our message. For example, in asking for directions from some old ladies on a bench, we got to talking about the Book of Mormon, and I was able to testify about it (and oh how strong and sweet the Spirit was in that moment) and give it to her. Another time, the member we were hoping to drop by wasn't home, but the neighbor opened up and we immediately started talking to her and shared a little about the Plan of Salvation, and we're planning on going back this week. As long as we're striving to do our best, the Lord will strive to lead us where we need to be.

Looks like that's all I have time for. I love you all and hope you have a wonderful week!

Sister Montgomery

PS -- The pics are at the famous Odessa stairs and the main port right nearby. Gotta love it!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Fwd: Letter #70 - 8/4/14

So Liz talked about changing her prayer to be a gratitude prayer.  Elder David A. Bednar spoke at our stake conference a while back and challenged us to say a gratitude prayer once in awhile.  It might be kind of hard, at first, because we are so used to "asking" instead of "thanking" (for me, anyway).  Try it sometime to express all your thanks to our wonderful Heavenly Father.  I, too, encourage all of you to count your blessings before you count your complaints.  It will be an amazing experience!  And the new video, that's amazing too!!!!!

Love you all!      Christine

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Elizabeth Montgomery <>
Date: Mon, Aug 4, 2014 at 4:53 AM
Subject: Letter #70 - 8/4/14
To: Christine Montgomery <>

Dear family and friends,

Hello! I don't have pictures right now because the USB port isn't working on this computer, but I'll send them sometime. Last Monday we went to Center Odessa and it was BEAUTIFUL. We saw the sea, climbed the famous stairs there, walked by a beautiful opera house near the ward building, walked through a neat park, bought some little souvenirs, then came back to our area. It was really neat!

I have literally like nine minutes to write... dang, I gotta learn now to manage my time again! This week was a busy one with investigators. Our investigator, Dasha (16-year-old girl), is doing fantastically and definitely headed toward baptism on August 30 (in the Black Sea!) :) We also have Alina and Nastya -- Nastya is a spunky 12-year-old girl and Alina is her spunky mom. They're awesome and really fun to be around, and they've got some good potential. And finally, there's Olya and Ruslan, but they haven't been that interested in meeting ever since I replaced the other Sister here (they were really close to her). But we'll see with them.

There were a few miracle stories that I might share next week when I have more time, but I'll just leave you with this little spiritual thought. There was one day when literally everybody on the street rejected me, and usually quite rudely. I was writing in my journal about it, kind of complaining how all I want is to find someone who will accept and thrive on the amazing message that I have to share. But then when I was saying my evening prayer that night, the Spirit kind of prodded me to replace my complaints with gratitude, and I started to do that. I realized how much I have to be grateful for: the opportunity to be on a mission, the fact that I'm still in Ukraine, the honor it is to wear my name tag and be in a proselyting area, the God-given testimony and charity that I have that makes me want to talk to people in the first place, the opportunity to suffer for my Savior in just a fraction of the way He suffered for me, and on and on. I felt so much better after that, and the Spirit rejoined me full force. I encourage all of you to count your blessings before you count your complaints -- you'll be a lot happier and will remember just how good God is!

Love you all! Have a great week!

Sister Montgomery

PS -- You should watch this new video; I think it's the best Mormon Message that I've ever seen!